The South African Navy frigate, SAS Isandlwana, is headed home after picking up 11 seriously injured Taiwanese sailors from the weather station on Tristan da Cunha Island on Saturday. The frigate sailed into a stormy South Atlantic Ocean last week Tuesday. The Valour-class warship is expected back in Simon’s Town tomorrow morning.
The Taiwanese sailors were landed on the island last Monday after an explosion caused by an ammonia gas leak aboard the fishing vessel Lai Ching. The South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre asked the South African National Defence Force to conduct the rescue operation after the explosion on the ship in late April. The Isandlwana was on Monday, May 2, tasked to set sail for the island, a rocky British possession some 2816 kilometres west-south-west from Cape Town, about halfway to South America.
The Cape Times reports five crew were killed in the April 29 accident, four went missing at sea and the remaining 24 survived by abandoning ship, getting into lifeboats and waiting for help. After floating in “choppy seas on lifeboats for a while”, they were picked up by a nearby vessel, the Shiang Man Ching, the paper says, some 800 nautical miles south-west of Tristan da Cunha. This vessel then offloaded 11 severely injured crew members on the island, where limited medical help is available.
The Shiang Man Ching then sailed for Cape Town with the 13 remaining “slightly” injured crew. SAMSA in a statement overnight added the ship, also a Taiwanese fishing vessel, was by yesterday afternoon approximately 840 nautical miles from Cape Town. “The ‘Shiang Man Ching’ is currently sailing towards Cape Town with the remainder of the crew – travelling at a average speed of 10 knots. It was estimated at the time she would arrive in Cape Town by yesterday noon.
The 11 men offloaded on the island are meanwhile receiving emergency medical treatment at the medical facility while they await the arrival of the navy frigate, SAMSA added. Some 275 people, costly farmers, live on the island, including a doctor and some nursing staff.
The frigate’s sickbay includes emergency ward and dental facilities, an operating theatre as well as an emergency operating theatre with resuscitation and triage capabilities. The Isandlwana is carrying a medical team including 11 Western Cape Provincial Department of Health Emergency Medical Service personnel, comprising two emergency medical doctors, four advanced life support paramedics and five rescue technicians.
The Cape Times adds a number of Chinese and Taiwanese publications had reported that the majority of the crew had been from the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. Two had been Taiwanese and three Chinese. According to the publication The Chinese Post, Chang Ching-Chiao, Lai Ching’s chief engineer from Taiwan, was one of the five killed in the accident.